From the end of the 19th till the beginning of the 20th century the Art Nouveau movement was “hot” in Italian architecture. Fortunately! I just love this art movement, whether in architecture, design or paintings. A range of Liberty-style as the movement was called in Italy buildings arose in Milan as well. The most important architects of these buildings in Milan are Giuseppe Sommaruga and Alessandro Mazzucotelli. The areas around Corso Magenta and Porta Venezia are the ones that still have the most testimonies of the Liberty era.
Italian Art Nouveau architecture in Milan
The major sights to look for in case you’re interested in Liberty architecture are:
- Palazzo Castiglion
During the first years of the 1900’s the entrepreneur Castiglioni wanted something real to show his success and grandeur. So he chose to have this Art Nouveau palazzo designed by architect Sommaruga. Unfortunately the (rather nude) female allegorical statues, caryatids at the entrance were not understood. The Milanese reacted with laughter: the house was nicknamed ” Ca’ di ciapp “, the bum-house. In the end the statues were removed to the Villa Romeo Faccanoni . The palace is home to the Union of Trade and Tourism and can only be visited on request.
- Palazzo Berri Meregalli
Close to the important Liberty style creation of Palazzo Castiglioni (a little further east) you’ll find the rather austere facade of this palazzo. The palazzo is lightened up by elegant ornaments, sculptures, polychrome mosaics and paintings. The style is a bit of mix of forms , from Roman to Liberty. Some of the sculptures are beautiful artworks by Adolfo Wildt .
- Casa Campanini
The house designed in 1904 by the architect that gave the house its name, Campanini , is one of the most important examples of the Liberty style in Milan.In the decorations (frescoes, stained glass, cast iron) floral motives prevail. It’s a private house, so you won’t be able to see the beautiful hallway, the staircase and period lift, unless you’re so bold to slip in.It’s close to the Santa Maria della Passione church, so you might want to make a small detour if you are going there.
- Ex-Trianon facade
On the Piazetta del Liberty , a bit west of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele , there is a peculiar modern building. The facade of ex- Trianon cinema of the main Corso is ‘pasted’ on it. The Trianon was heavily damaged in World War II and demolished in 1954; only the facade survived the devastations and was reconstructed for the new building.
- Acquario Civico
The communal aquarium of Milan, situated in a beautiful art nouveau building in Sempione park , is one of the oldest aquariums in the world.A spectacular transparent tunnel-bridge allows visitors to pass underneath the tank. From within you can admire the many different fish species from every corner.The aquarium has multimedia library.
- Casa Laugier
This house, from 1906, with a style that is a combination of traditional and Liberty, is located near Porta Magenta just behind the demolished Spanish walls. A feature of interest is the the pharmacy on the corner which has preserved its original interior.
- Casa Ferrario
This palazzo is considered one of the best examples of the Liberty style in Milan, and built in 1904. To be noticed are especially the cast iron balconies. It is located at a stone’s throw from the Duomo (west).
- Casa Guazzoni
On the same street, Via Malpighi , as the Casa Galimberti there is another facade that one might want to have a look at, that of Casa Guazzoni. Especially worth noting are the balconies with putti and iron columns . The cart entrance has a precious iron gate and restored frescoes. The stairs inside are again of richly worked cast iron.
- Palazzina Liberty
The Palazzina Liberty was constructed in 1908 on the location of the fruit and vegetable market. The building was meant to house the offices and a café and restaurant, which have remained in use until 1965. In the ’70s actor Dario Fo and his company made it into a theater. After a period of decay it is now an exhibition center and see of the Milano Classica chamber orchestra. The Palazzina is characterized by its large glass surfaces, art nouveau facade and the decorative motifs of the ceramic tiles. It surroundings now form a nice park, the Largo Marinai .
- Ex-cinema Dumont
Close to Casa Galimberti and Casa Guazzoni there is the former Dumont cinema, derelict for decades, now (partly) the library of the district. The richly decorated Liberty style facade is impressive and worth a look.
To see the caryatids that were removed from the Palazzo Castiglioni you need to pass by Villa Romeo Faccanoni at Via Michelangelo Buonarroti 48, north west of Porta Magenta. This is another Liberty style palazzo. The nude female statues were removed because they were considered too liberal and offensive to the Milanese public. See for yourself! (I think they would indeed fit into one of mr Berlusconi ‘s parties very well). The Villa nowadays houses a private medical clinic and is worth a look, especially for the ironwork gate and ornaments. Via Revere , adjacent to Parco Sempione contains a number of particularly important Liberty style buildings, such as Casa Donzelli. In addition, on the Cimitero Monumentale there are some beautiful Liberty style mortuary monuments to be admired. And the architecture of the massive Stazione Centrale is in fact a mixture of Liberty and fascist style of building.
An even more extended list of Liberty style architecture is available at the ArteLiberty website .